How Does MAT Work with 12-Step Programs?

What is MAT, and how does it work? Recovering from drug and alcohol dependence is a complex process that, unfortunately, does not have a universal solution for all individuals. Each person is unique, and their context in relation to substance dependence varies considerably. When choosing a treatment for sobriety, it is crucial to consider various factors, such as the severity of addiction, types of substances used, medical history, presence of other coexisting mental or health disorders, and socio-environmental factors.

While it is essential that a health professional specializing in substance dependence treatment design and customize the treatment plan, experts agree that the most effective approach involves providing comprehensive, evidence-based treatment and offering a continuum of care tailored to the patient’s needs.

One comprehensive alternative is Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) along with 12-step programs. MAT is an effective option that has emerged to address opioid dependence and abuse. But what is MAT, and how does it work? MAT programs aimed at opioid use disorder help patients follow the recovery process by effectively reducing opioid use using medications that affect opioid receptors in the brain, decreasing cravings, and alleviating bothersome withdrawal symptoms. MAT allows patients to focus on recovery and participate in complementary therapies, such as 12-step programs.

MAT Care Clinics is in Nashua, New Hampshire, specializing in serving people in New England dealing with substance dependence disorder. In our programs focused on sobriety recovery, we promote medication treatment as an adjunct to other therapies, thus enhancing long-term outcomes and maintenance of sobriety. In this blog, we will address how MAT works in combination with 12-step programs so you can learn more about the dynamics of these approaches and make informed decisions for yourself or your loved ones.

Understanding 12-Step Programs

12-step programs are peer support groups that assist individuals dealing with substance dependence to achieve and maintain sobriety. These programs promote the acquisition of coping skills, provide community support and acceptance, facilitate the transition to sobriety, and promote long-term recovery. This model works under the premise that people can help each other overcome addiction by counteracting the isolation caused by substance use and harmful relationships.

Although these programs have a foundational religious component, alternatives exist for those who prefer a more secular approach. Despite this, these programs continue to be a commonly recommended and utilized treatment modality for a variety of addictions. According to the Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), approximately 74 percent of treatment centers occasionally use the 12-step model.

The underlying philosophy of the 12 steps stresses the importance of accepting substance dependence as a treatable but not eliminable disease, encouraging spiritual growth and individual maturity, reducing self-centeredness, and offering help to other group members. The 12 steps outline sequential activities for participants to accomplish during their recovery process.

The original 12 steps presented by AA include:

  1. Recognizing powerlessness over addiction
  2. Believing in a higher power
  3. Surrendering control to that power
  4. Taking a personal inventory
  5. Admitting mistakes to the higher power and others
  6. Being ready to let the higher power correct personality defects
  7. Asking the higher power to eliminate those defects
  8. Make a list of the wrongs you’ve done and be willing to repair them
  9. Contacting those you have hurt, except if doing so will harm them
  10. Keep taking personal inventory and recognizing when you are wrong
  11. Seeking enlightenment and connection through prayer and meditation
  12. Passing on the message to those in need

These steps provide a structure oriented toward recovery and personal growth.

Exploring MAT and 12-Step Programs

Twelve Steps and medication-assisted treatment are practical options for obtaining and maintaining recovery and can coexist peacefully and synergistically. Medication programs for opioid use disorders help patients adhere to the recovery process and reduce opioid use, proving more effective than non-medicated approaches because they affect opioid receptors in the brain. Though these medications vary in their mechanism of action, they all share the common goal of reducing opioid cravings and decreasing the likelihood of opioid use.

Methadone and buprenorphine are two of the medications approved by the FDA and specifically assist patients with withdrawal physical symptoms. The national nonprofit Shatterproof argues, “Twelve Step programs can be beneficial for some people in recovery. But they do not work for everyone, and these programs alone are not an adequate substitute for evidence-based medical treatment for addiction.” While some individuals manage to stop using drugs with the support of family or groups, many require formal treatment. AA itself acknowledges in the “AA Preamble” that they are not treatment but instead a support community where each member shares their experience, strength, and hope to solve a common problem and help others recover.”

A study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse concluded that greater collaboration between MAT professionals and the Twelve Steps should be encouraged. “Both groups have much to offer in terms of promoting recovery from substance dependence, and collaboration between the two can improve opportunities for long-term abstinence.”

Benefits of MAT Integration with Twelve-Step Programs

  1. Addresses the Physical Aspects – MAT helps manage the physical pain of stopping using substances by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Mild physical discomfort allows people to focus on the psychological and spiritual aspects of recovery outlined in the Twelve Steps.
  2. Reduced Risk of Relapse – MAT decreases the risk of relapse by providing a stabilizing foundation for people in early recovery. The Twelve Steps offer a roadmap for building a solid support system and developing coping mechanisms to prevent relapse.
  3. Individualized Treatment Plans– MAT allows for a personalized treatment approach, considering the unique needs and responses of each individual. The 12 Steps provide a structured yet adaptable framework that accommodates diverse spiritual beliefs and personal experiences.
  4. Holistic Treatment Plan – By combining MAT with the 12-step approach, individuals can address both the physical and spiritual dimensions of substance use disorder. A holistic approach increases the chances of long-term recovery by promoting overall wellness.
  5. Breaking the Stigma – MAT helps reduce the stigma associated with the use of medication in recovery by emphasizing that addiction is a medical condition. By following doctors’ recommendations, it is possible to achieve a substance-free life. The Twelve-Step community, in turn, can provide a supportive environment that accepts various recovery pathways, including MAT.

MAT Care Clinics and Medication-assisted Treatment

The fusion of medication treatment and the Twelve Step Program represents an innovative approach to recovery from opioid dependence. By combining the benefits of pharmacological support with the spiritual and community elements of the Twelve Steps, individuals can access a more comprehensive and tailored strategy for sustained recovery.

At MAT Care Clinics, as treatment providers, we advocate for diverse approaches that address the unique needs of each individual on their path to sobriety. If you are in the New England area and you or someone you know is in search of recovery support, we are here to help. Contact us by calling (833) 622-0628 or through our website to schedule a free consultation.

In our treatment, we use state-of-the-art medications such as Suboxone, Sublocade, Naltrexone, and Vivitrol. Patients must visit our center to get the monthly doses and minimize the chances of abuse.

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